Pressure defense carries Mission past Stuart Hall

To the outside observer, the play of Mission High School’s boys’ basketball team may appear to be frenetic and scrambled, but that’s just how they like it.

It was the hard-pressing Bears defense, which forced 22 Stuart Hall turnovers and fed an opportunistic offense, that wore down the Knights in a 61-55 win on Thursday at Stuart Hall High School.

“It’s by design,” Mission coach Arnold Zelaya said. “We’re going to press the whole time and if I can get someone to play our game, that’s even better.”

Stuart Hall (4-6) handled the press relatively well early on, but as the game progressed, the constant pressure visibly frustrated the Knights.

“That’s the idea,” Zelaya said. “It’s a hard thing to sell the kids though, to run for 32 minutes and reap the benefits at the end. You could see it coming. It’s like a 12-round fight, you just keep hitting them with a jab.”

The biggest benefactors of the transition offense were sophomore guards Antoine Porter and Kevin Murray, who had 19 and 17 points, respectively.

“They are our two best pure basketball guys,” Zelaya said. “We have seniors and juniors, but they’ve always been in support roles. [Porter and Murray], wherever they’ve been, have been in control.”

Still, the Knights were in the game throughout and held a 45-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but it was key misses in the paint that would haunt Stuart Hall.

The backbreaking miss came with just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter when sophomore Andreas Peritos found himself all alone behind the Bears’ (3-6) defense, but missed the open layup that would have tied the game.

It was a common theme that plagued the Stuart Hall frontcourt, with 6-foot-4 Peritos and 6-foot-9 Carter Chickering having a definitive size advantage inside.

“Andres is going to be a really good player for us, but he’s just a sophomore,” Stuart Hall coach Charles Johnson said. “I’m certainly not going to put it all on him.”

Stuart Hall, like Mission, was led by two young guards — juniors Tim Connoly and LaBoyd Ricard, who led the way with 16 and 10 points, respectively.

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